Texas A&M will suspend Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for the first half of its season-opener against Rice on Saturday, according to a report from Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com via Twitter.
The quarterback has been under NCAA scrutiny for receiving compensation for autographs, including a six-hour meeting on Sunday in College Station.
ESPN's Brett McMurphy cites a source as saying the half-game suspension "closes the book" on the Manziel autograph saga, and that the NCAA acknowledges Manziel did not accept money.
Reports alleged that Manziel exchanged autographs for money on several occasions, including in Miami during January’s BCS championship game week. An autograph dealer told ESPN that Manziel accepted payments in exchange for more than 4,000 signed items at an event in Connecticut in January.
There has been speculation that Texas A&M may consider benching Manziel until the NCAA's investigation is resolved, but the Aggies had given no indication as to Manziel’s status heading into their season opener. Texas A&M players and coaches have been instructed to not answer questions regarding Manziel’s standing or the NCAA case, according to a statement from A&M athletic director Eric Hyman:
“The focus of our coaches and student-athletes is solely on preparing for Rice this Saturday,” Hyman said in the statement, “and in the best interests of Texas A&M and the 100-plus student-athletes on the team, I have instructed Coach Sumlin, his staff and our student-athletes to refrain from commenting on or answering questions regarding the status of our starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel.”
Texas A&M officials have been supportive of Manziel publicly, including chancellor John Sharp, who last week told College Station’s KBTX that he knows Manziel is innocent. When asked how he knew that to be true, Sharp said, “I just know. I’ve seen things that other folks can’t see. And it didn’t happen. It did not happen.”